Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Sam Smith’s ambition is largely hit-or-miss on Gloria


Release date: 27 January 2023
Sam Smith Gloria
27 January 2023, 12:30 Written by Riley Moquin

Off the momentum of the Billboard-topping hit single “Unholy,” Sam Smith released Gloria with promises and hopes of making a major artistic statement.

Unfortunately, the result of Smith’s ambition is a mixed bag. On one hand, Smith experiments with sounds they haven’t touched yet in their career, and sounds that have seldom been heard from major pop acts of their kind (“Unholy”). Gloria thus sees glimmers of Smith – now on their fourth studio record – at their artistically boldest yet. The overall end product, though, is a bit less bold and, thus, less impressive.

Gloria often finds Smith sinking into bland pop sonics that don’t lend justice to Smith’s vocal talent: “Perfect,” “Gimme,” and “Who We Love” being prime examples of this problem. The lyrics on Gloria are rarely its saving grace, either. “I used to love the nightlife / ‘till my nightlife got too lonely / might be time for the right guy / got a feeling that it could be you” (on “Perfect”) is far from anything too profound.

Still, Smith performs better on Gloria than their choices of features. Kim Petras is unimpressive on “Unholy,” Jessie Reyez’ hook on “Gimme” is borderline repulsive, and – like most of his recent output – Ed Sheeran’s contribution to “Who We Love” is uninspired. Gloria’s long list of talented collaborators fail to give the record the extra push to bring it above leaving the listener thinking “meh.”

Smith’s ambition is admirable, and – in spite of the shortcomings of Gloria – this ambition shines through in a few moments. “Love Me More” preaches self-love over a church organ and gospel choir backdrop, creating a tension with the Catholic upbringing that challenged the non-binary Smith’s ability to love themself when coming-of-age. “No God” is the track that immediately follows, featuring one of the record’s best hooks and one of the simplest, but most enjoyable instrumentals. The first two tracks on the record thus display plenty of potential in Gloria’s concept – potential that simply isn’t expanded on much further as the record continues onward.

Sam Smith has always been a pop artist, but the singer finds themself mostly at their best on this record when they’re not trying to make a viral moment. These are also the points where Smith’s objectives behind the record are the clearest and shine at their brightest. Sadly, these points are also pretty hard to come by on Gloria. More often than not, we are being given bland dance-infused tracks that make Gloria feel at times like a watered-down impersonation of Beyoncé's Renaissance. In the process, much of what Smith hoped to express throughout Gloria gets drowned out in just thirty-three minutes of runtime. While by no means a bad record, Sam Smith’s Gloria is largely hit-or-miss.

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